Saturday, March 24, 2012

Oops, We Forgot About The Blog

We're still alive!


Friends, family. Pace Bend Park, outside of Austin, TX. L to R, Bowie, Pete, Felicia, Ray, Francois, Chris, Franzie, Evan, Ari. This is pretty close to our current situation. (except that Chris and Franzie left to continue their journey, Ray and Felicia and Bowie are now in Nola again, Evan is back in Austin, Francois is in Austin too along with Ari and I. So yeah, bus-life-current).

Now, for the inbetweeny bits:

We have been having so many experiences that we plum forgot about the blog. For a while we were going to post something, and recorded some stories, but then it was never caught up with the present and we kept having more to blog about which forestalled our posting which made us have more to blog about. So we just rediscovered the beginnings of some blog posts we were writing circa January, finished them off, added some commentaries putting the stories in context, and posted it. Here's whatever was on our minds December and January, and a very brief synopsis of our time since then.

 The Veggie Oil System

Veggie system in progress
Working on the veggie conversion
 We have finished the veggie oil system. Lots of thanks to our friends on the farm in Athens for helping us so much. The veggie system is working like a dream. One of those dreams where you are called upon by NASA to invent a rocket ship, and you're in the room with all the scientists looking towards you, but you're an English major with no understanding of rocket science and you're in your underwear. Yes, it's a lot of work and none of us really understand bus mechanics very well, but it's free! If you know any cool mechanics that want to go on a bus trip, let us know. Anyways, here's how the system basically works: We have two 55 gallon oil drums. We ask around at restaurants to see if they have any old frying oil. If they do, we heat a little up to test if it is good. If it crackles, it has too much water in it, but if it doesn't, then we pour it into our barrel for dirty oil. There are heaters in the barrels to make the oil more viscous. After we drive a bit, the oil heats up enough to hand crank over to the clean oil barrel. On the way to the clean barrel, it goes through a bunch of filters, down to ten micron. Then it goes through a filter that also gets out a bit of water, and heats up a bit more on the way to the engine. It takes a lot of pumping, filtering, changing filters, and troubleshooting things like air leaks. We have a constant oily sheen on our bodies, some destroyed clothing, and very very well oiled floors. Collecting oil is difficult, as most places have contracts with companies to collect their grease. This makes for long hours of asking around at restaurants. When we finally find some, it often has too much emulsified water in it. However it often leads to some great encounters. I got some oil from a Mexican restaurant, where they were happy to find someone else to speak Spanish with. They told me great immigration stories. (Commentary: Wow, this post sounds kind of bitter. This was written when we were under a lot of stress and time constraints and we were still working out all our systems. Things are running smoother now, we've learned tricks for collecting oil, and we've tweaked things. We just went to Austin on veggie oil without problems, so things are looking good.)
Our work area
Pumping oil from the dirty barrel to the clean barrel

Bus innards

 Our Latest Addition

We met Dan at a dinner at our friend Gretchen's house. About a week later, we were preparing to leave Athens. Dan, Gretchen, and their friend came to visit us at the farm. Dan said in passing, "I'd come with you if you had room." Lots of people say this, then proceed to say, "No, I wish. I've got responsibilities." Dan on the other hand, said, "Great! I'll quit my job and sublet my apartment." We replied, "Great! We're leaving tomorrow." (Commentary: Dan unfortunately had to return to Athens in late February. He was an awesome bus-mate, and we miss him!)

The Crew:


One Last Thing Before We Depart from Athens

Waffle House madness 
Athens has been good to us.We have a good community of friends there. But it was time to get back on the road. We stopped by Waffle House before leaving for an early morning visit with Gretchen who is working there to save up money for her awesome trailer she is building from the ground up. The visit involved playing frisbee with a burnt waffle and guerrilla contra dancing, scrabble, and meeting some of Gretchen's patron friends who stop by early in the morning. An appropriate bookend to our time in Athens. Then, off to distant horizons. (Commentary: Dang, Athens seems like a long time ago. Yeah, that was a lot of fun. Here's the Waffle House photos)

A sweet bus that our friends made 
A true southern bonfire

"Ray" who did most of our veggie conversion

A gorgeous bus roof on the farm in Athens

Aftermath of a bike jump. He then proceeded to try it again.

Stalking Ace, the hyperactive canine


Oh, screw it, I'll just frolic instead.

Flora in Athens

Our first destination was Savannah, GA. It was a whole different world of vegetation. There was lots of spanish moss draping down from trees. The city seemed really old. We attempted our first oil run. We went about 70 blocks in the opposite direction than intended, but we found some great things. A bar owner showed us where to find some free veggie oil. Then we found a dumpster in front of a recently vacated house.  Inside was some cool stuff: an extendable pegboard, a old guitar case, a jansport backpack, a tin of blueberry lemon dumpster muffins, a bingo ball randomizer/dispenser, and a bag of little green army soldiers. We dispersed the plastic soldiers all around Savannah, in cracks in bricks, poking out around corners. We had lunch at a takeout shop called Zunzy's. It was a true experience. The atmosphere is cheerful and enthusiastic. We waited in line with some kids from the art school there and were all friends by the time we got our huge plates of delicious food. If you're ever in Savannah, check it out. The main chef/ owner loves to say his catchphrase, "sh%# yeah!", only it sounds like "shee-chya!". It has since become colloquial on our bus in times of excitement. (Commentary: For a short time while busking, we would give out the dumpstered bingo balls while busking. It confused people.)


Picnic at a rest stop in Florida

Music in St. Augustine

 In Athens we wrote and almost finished recording a song called Teeth and Bones. It is a gritty folk song based on experiences we've never had, like shanking people and going to jail. We started playing it for people, and got an overwhelmingly positive response. So we started to develop some more songs. When we picked Dan up, we ascertained that he played the clarinet, and started working up some arrangements with him. In Savannah we played on the streets for the first time. We hadn't practiced much, but we did so on the street. We gave passerbys bingo balls that we had dumpstered. Busking (playing on the street) is a great way to meet people and get a sense of a town where you don't know anyone. This was demonstrated in full force the next evening in St. Augustine. 
As we were playing, a man came down and asked us why the heck we were playing the Star Wars Cantina Band song outside his apartment. We offered to move, but he said no, he was just excited that someone was playing something he could swing dance to. Turns out he's a professional swing dancer! We played another song with a swingable beat, and he Charlestoned amazingly. We got into a long conversation with him and deduced that he was awesome. 
Next a man rode up on a bike with a guitar. He compliments us and pulls some cash from his pocket... Thirty five dollars! BUT, then he puts it back in his pocket. "I've got a song for you," he says. The tune is called 'whispers.' it's an uncomfortably personal song about the man's ex-girlfriend. The word 'bitch' was a recurring theme of the composition. For nearly the entirety of playing, the man kept a steady gaze at Pete (where being sung at is one of Pete's biggest fears.)   After the song he grabbed our arms for 'Cherokee handshakes.' as the stumbling man mounted his bike, he looked up and ascertained that, "a storm's coming in." 
Then a new stumbling, mumbling enigma arrived as we thought of packing up our instruments. "Come on let me buy you a beer," he said. Then he began to urinate on a nearby telephone pole. We played him an appropriate peeing song. As we followed him to a bar, we asked him his name. "my name is a*$hole." he took us to the veterans of foreign wars, where the bar taps were empty. Instead we bought a large bread roll which was only a dollar.  We continued to follow the man in his quest to buy us a pitcher, until he approached a woman and began to touch her. Her fright alerted us to their lack of acquaintance. 
Our busking setup 
Then we began to say goodbye to the man, pitcher or no pitcher, when a man (who referred to himself as "Rudy Van Sandt", the lead singer of 38 special who's been dead for years) came up to the three of us as we were trying to make our getaway. "Are you $&)@ing with these guys!?!" demanded our drunken beer-seeking enigma. "Rudy" responded with a drunken persistence to stop the negative energy. This did not compute with drunk guy #1. Again, "ARE YOU &!?@ING WITH THESE GUYS!!!??!?. This all happened quickly, and as soon as we realized that fisticuffs could ensue, post haste. "No one is being $!@&ed with, it's cool! It's cool!! No problem!!" this eventually worked and drunk guy #1, after a few firm territorial squeezes of "Rudy's" hand, he slurred his goodbyes and staggered off. "Rudy" exclaimed about the massive negative vibes and how he didn't want to mess up his steel toed boots. He then asked our faith, told us that he had cousins were in Lynard Skynard & that he could "tell a musician when I see one" (we were all carrying huge guitar cases or various instruments). He looked like Keith Richards. Then "Rudy" took our photo. He then told us that the key to life was holding your hands out in front of you, pointer fingers almost touching, and then rotating oppositely rotating your hands in opposite circles. We've all practiced since then, and are enlightened.
We were walking back when a guy on a bike stopped. He told us that it was good that we were playing music instead of just panhandling. "It's all about entertainment." He proceeded to tell us that he would show people bike tricks and rap for them for money, and the police came after him for panhandling, even though there was another guy actually panhandling and not entertaining. He rode off on his bike, standing on the seat, doing leg tricks. It was awesome. His name was Carwash.
The next morning Ari was awake, doing some emailing and Dan and Pete were asleep. A policeman came to tell us that people had called about the bus and it was over the streets weight limit. He was extremely nice, engaging in "police cutetality". He told us where we could park, and talked to a lady who was coming to hand out tickets to tell her we were leaving. He also let us know that it wasn't against the law, but our side access battery door was ajar, and that he thought that we should know. 
Then we went to the library and thrift shop to get clothes and song lyrics. The library had a merry-go-round next to it. We practiced music in the bus. The bus butt covered the entire sidewalk of the island style sidewalk leading up to the library. We moved to the city and parked next to a gymnasium where the "G" looked like Pacman. 
Our bus in a tree and over the sidewalk at the library in St. Augustine
In the city we searched for the perfect busking spot and we found Cody, Jason, and Tyler. They were playing "Old Number 7" by The Devil Makes Three, with a guitar, and banjo. We left when a cop hassled them about some dogs that a random weird guy left with them. Their parting gift was a female mannequin torso with "live music" scrawled on it in sharpie, and an invitation to a bonfire gathering. We picked a spot off St. George street, behind the sidewalk stamp in the middle of the street, marking the distance that musicians need to be from the walking mall street. We met Quill, who was a free spirit who loved our music. Also, we met Jim, who owned a popcorn shop and he gave us some free bags flavored like red velvet cake, s'mores, and other awesome and tasty favors. Quill asked us to play an improvisational song telling people to give us their white boxes (to go containers).
We then met Sarah, who walks around the outdoor mall dressed as a pirate. It was her house that we were about to go to. Her friend had a ball of yarn fall out of her purse and it trailed all the way down the street. We packed up and left for the party and we saw Quill talking to a street magician named Ash. We enjoyed some of Ash's tricks, then we provided soundtrack music for him as he performed. Together, we attracted many people. Two girls discussed their romantic drama, leaving us more perplexed and entertained than a magic show ever could. We walked back to the bus with Quill, Ash, two of Quill's friends, and their dog. Together we rode to the bonfire. It was a true southern party, including a few people getting in fights just because they had nothing else to do. (Commentary: Yessiree, this was an incredibly concentrated dose of absurdity. After that first night, we sat around, looked at each other, and burst out laughing. Although it was late at night/early in the morning, we just sat there passing around a pad of paper and writing about our day. I feel bad that we aren't writing about all the other great friends we hung out with, people we met, and experiences we had, but luck of the draw, the mad St. Augustinians got a lot of coverage and many others didn't.)

Music in Jackson

Our bus started having difficulties in Mississippi.
 So, we went to an auction.
We spent a few very stressful days moving short distances due to veggie failures, diesel failures, unhealthy looking smoke, and a small oil leak. At one point, we thought we were going to need $4500 worth of gasket repair work. So, on short notice, we had to find a spot to park in Jackson so we could check out the bus and hopefully deccompress from the stress of the past couple days. Ari found some people through the Couchsurfing website.  We walked in, and there was a potluck going on. It was a delightful group of friends from Millsaps College. During the potluck we pulled out our instruments and did a little entertaining. Two of the kids afterwards told us that they were on the student activities board for the college. They told us they could give us a concert later that week. So, we began practicing and preparing songs. We stayed in Jackson for a week instead of a night, and had a great time with the Millsaps kids.
Four days later we found ourselves being taken out to Ethiopian food before the concert. We played for about 30 people in a cafeteria, some songs we had only learned the day before. We even got paid and interviewed for the school paper. To save ourselves some blogging, here's the article:  
Who are the Buskateers?   
Last month the Buskateers, a small but eclectic group of musically inclined travelers, came to visit Jackson. They played to a modest group of Millsaps students eliciting laughter, applause and generous foot tapping to songs like Apocalypse Love, a Star Wars rap and an anatomically correct Dinosaur song. 
Like their lyrics and between song commentaries, the instruments they played revealed the quirkiness and creativity of the Buskateers’ personalities. Along with a guitar and a tambourine, the band played a ukulele, clarinet, nose flute, miniature washboard and an ancient instrument called “bones”. Originally bones were made from cow ribs, however, today Ari Erlbaum, nose flute player and singer of the Star Wars rap, carves them from wood. Erlbaum learned to play the bones at a dance convention workshop after seeing some of the best bones players in the world perform: “I was like, yeah, I gotta learn to play those things.” Recalls Erlbaum. 
The nose flute has also been a large part of Erlbaum’s musical influence; “it’s been a tradition in my family to stock pile nose flutes to give them to people for their birthdays and to like always have a nose flute on you.” 
Pete Talbot, whose beard gets in the way of his nose fluting, describes his affinity for the ukulele. “I play a ukulele because I thought it would be really adorable. Everything you play on a uke is cute or sad, but it’s mainly cute.” 
Playing at Millsaps
The bus trip originated with Talbot whose intentions were to travel. “I wanted to visit the U.S., because I really haven’t before. So I built the bus up and got it all ready and I was going along and I thought it would be way better to have company.” 
Talbot and Erlbaum have been life long friends. Talbot says “it just happened to work out that we were both musician…” “and both played ridiculous songs.” Laughs Erlbaum, who was inspired to start playing music by Talbot who used to be his summer camp counselor. 
Erlbaum joined the trip on November 13th and the bus continued moving down the east coast. The two Buskateers picked up and dropped off various friends as they made their way to Athens, GA where they met Dan Tinsley in early January. “We weren’t in a band until Dan came along.” Says Erlbaum. 
Though the Buskateers seem as if they’ve graced the stage many times previous to their show at Millsaps, the boys had only played three times before, never on stage, but always what they call “busking”, or playing at people on the streets. “It was really neat tonight to play when people were actually coming to listen.” Says Erlbaum 
But music is most definitely not the primary purpose of the Buskateers’ buskapades. “Creativity is sort of a motivation in general,” says Erlbaum “so for Pete, the idea was to live on a bus and sell his art off of it.”
 “I think we all wanted to do something where we didn’t have to go into an office.” Talbot agrees. 
The big green schoolbus that plays home to the Buskateers has been converted to run on vegetable oil. The hand operated converter lives inside a plywood box, which takes up a large portion of the right side of the bus. The rest of the bus tightly contains a large disheveled bed, mess area, sink, bathroom, and art desk about which various stuffed animal appendages are packed tightly together in cubbyholes. With these stuffed animals and miscellaneous recycled items Talbot makes what he calls “no death required taxidermy”; imaginative stuffed animal heads mounted on taxidermy plaques. 
The three Buskateers are a rare breed in this materialistic generation. “Live on a bus, it rocks.” Says Erlbaum, “It’s more efficient to need less than to have more.” 
Along the way, their experience of others has been overwhelmingly positive. “We’ve just met so many people who we didn’t really do much for but just entertain them with the idea of what we were doing, and they’ve jut been extremely hospitable.” Remarks Tinsley. 
But, of course, with the energy, demeanor and over all experience of the Buskateers, it would be very difficult to be anything less than inspired. -Sara Sacks
 (Commentary: The Buskateers have somewhat disbanded for the moment. We are without Dan's clarinet and percussive stylings. We may try to figure out two person arrangements of songs at some point, but right now our minds are on other things.)

What Has Happened Since Then (In Brief)

We came to New Orleans and stayed there for a month. We met other cool people living in buses and started "Bustopia" in a parking lot. Ari left to go to Vermont and Northern Quebec for a month. Pete and Dan had a great Mardi Gras. Bustopia did some workshops and talks about veggie oil systems. Bustopia now consists of three buses and a box truck, all wonderful people. There's been lots of dumpster diving. Dan had to go back to Athens. Ari came back. All the buses went on a roadtrip to Austin Texas where we are now. Here are a TON of photos from all of that. Enjoy!

Free Box in New Orleans. We got new outfits.
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More terror.
Krewe de vieux, the beginning of Mardi Gras!
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A petty cab biker, with the blood money he was paid with. Gross.
Yes! Bus!

Bowie the bus driver.
Dan's origami glasses.
Art in Mardi gras theme.
Dan, in Florida.
Our wonderful friend Kate Rhuby. We visited her on our way down through florida. She's an excellent person, and it was so great to see her and spend time hanging out at her place with her great roommates!
The lights in West Palm Beach. It's nuts. We visited a family friend, Kate, and her Romanian housemates. It was a great visit. We tried to busk on the main street there, but we were competing with the loud throbbing of the clubbing scene. It's a crazy town. People were generally obnoxious to us while we busked.

Ari + Gulf of Mexico.
Our amazing friend Josh Sullivan at the Gulf of Mexico.
Greasy Ari, exhausted after an oil run.

Wakey wakey, eggs and bakey...and shirtless teeth brushing.
To eat, or not to eat.
Yay! Sink!
Art for "The Cute Show" at The S.P.A.C.E. Gallery in Burlington, VT
Rose, an awesome friend from Jackson.

Trains. So the time.
Nola. Green Project.
Samantha and Tom's veggie greyhound. Over a million miles and still going!
That's a poop.
Barkus band.
A vendor during Mardi Gras
Chris and Franzie on the way to the Junkyard.
Beautiful Junk.

"The Gargle". My newest Upcycled Faux Taxidermy.
The French Market, where I sold art.
Francois performing his puppet show in the french quarter.
Thunderdome meets battlebots. So awesome!
Krewe Du Poo.
Recycled puppet. Naturally.
Sesame street, of course.

Party time.
Zulu parade

The Bourbon and St. Ann st. Costume contest. Hosted by Blanche Debris and Bianca Del Rio. Amazingly fabulous!
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Another AWESOME tree house.
Cool looking wall.
The grave of the New Orleans Voodoo Queen.
Graveyard frolic. Nola.

Alligator, eating a marshmallow
Bayou shack. Legit.
Leah and Bowie.
Francios and Sabine on a bayou tour.
Bowie. Gator wrangler.
Swamp Cat. Woah.
The bus.
Ray's engine, before he took its brain out.
Turtle power.
The lower 9th Ward.
Nola night.
Nola, the bridge before the lower 9th ward.
Lice scare. We're ok.
Dumpster pizza and the internet. What else do you need?
The "organized" water pump system. Rain water and fresh water.
Chasing the sun.
Travel eyes.
Felicia had us adorn their bus.
Our friend Evan traveled to Pace Bend Park with us after working South by Southwest with us.
Nola, right before heading to Austin. After Ray changed his head gasket. Ug.
On the road again! Austin HO!
Steam punk trojan horse. So awesome! Nola
Welcome to Texas!
Pace Bend Park
Ari almost making it.
Pace Bend Park
Pace bend park bones.
Extended exposure of the pace bend park night sky.

The last time the tractor and the trailer were seen, before Bowie threw them into a lake, forever.

Our first parking space in NOLA, by the bywater
One of the tree houses in NOLA, our neighbor
Chad, a local street performer. He would dress up in his gilly-suit swamp thing looking costume and have photos taken in the french quarter.
Free box!